Weekend getaway: California’s breathtaking Central Coast
I recently moved to California and was amazed by its beauty. here i like to share weekend getaway.
IF YOU GO
As the scenic, twisting Highway 1 route along the Big Sur coast will be closed for several months because of this winter’s storm damage, take Highway 101 south to San Luis Obispo, and turn West to Morro Bay on Highway 1. California Highway 1 Discovery Route, www.highway1discoveryroute.com. Itineraries, maps, attractions, deals.
Morro Bay Visitors Center, www.morrobay.org. Lodgings, restaurants, recreation, historic sites, deals. Ask about the free passport worth $130 in discounts at hotels, restaurants, and local businesses.
Giovanni’s Fish Market and Galley, Morro Bay, www.giovannisfishmarket.com. On the waterfront deck, fish-on-a-stick, chowder, crab sandwiches, fish tacos, ”chowda fries.”
Robin’s, Cambria, www.robinsrestaurant.com. A locals’ favorite for decades, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Indian food in a garden setting.
Wee Shack, Morro Bay, www.weeshack.com. A cozy, casual, award-winning café, massive burgers, breakfast burritos, and comfort food.
Cambria Inns, www.cambriainns.com. Four charming inns above Moonstone Beach: Blue Dolphin, Sand Pebbles, Moonstone Cottages, and Castle Inn.
must read: Top 10 beautiful places in the world
Anderson Inn, Morro Bay, www.andersoninnmorrobay.com. An 8-room, boutique inn overlooking the marina, with some fireplaces, soaking tubs, and balconies; and downstairs, The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar.
Morro Bay State Park Campground, Morro Bay, www.parks.ca.gov. Near the Museum of Natural History and the golf course, 126 sites, for tents and RVs to 35 feet; some full hookups.
South of the Bay Area, just below the legendary Big Sur stretch of Highway 1, the Central Coast has sunny, sandy beaches and more than enough historic sites and outdoor fun for a weekend adventure. While winter storms forced an enduring closure along stretches of Highway 1 coastal route — most people prefer the inland Highway 101 route south anyway. Aside from being unaffected by the coastal closures, it’s much faster and is less treacherous for any passengers prone to car sickness. The drive from Ragged Point south to Morro Bay turns up quaint villages and seaside towns, a Victorian-era lighthouse, and lots to do, from wildlife, watching to seafood nothing, hiking, biking, paddling, and wandering along the gentle coastline.
Ragged Point is a good place to start, where a high bluff top vista point affords dazzling views north up the Big Sur coast and south to the tower of the Piedras Blancas Light Station. On a narrow finger of land jutting into the Pacific, built in 1895, the 100-foot-tall lighthouse lies amid wildflowers and open fields, a carefully restored navigational landmark. The historic building is open to guided tours on weekday mornings.
Along the edge of the small bay below Point Piedras Blancas is the southernmost resting place in California for Northern elephant seals––a startling sight in the wintertime when the immense, grunting animals gather in the dozens to mate and give birth. You can watch them from both ends of the highway parking lot, on wheelchair-friendly walkways, along with the usual gang of tourists armed with binoculars and cameras. Not far offshore is another lively gang––sea lions and harbor seals that haul out of the sea and drape themselves over the rocks.
Down the road
Down the road, a bit, and directly across from Hearst Castle, the William R. Hearst Memorial State Beach invites a walk on the fishing pier and a swim in the calm waters of the cove, which is protected from wind and surf by San Simeon Point. For the energetic, kayaks and boogie boards can be rented right here. Nearby are picnic tables and BBQs, and what’s left of the village of San Simeon, comprising the circa-1850 Sebastian’s General Store, an old schoolhouse, and a marine education center.
The next gem in the necklace of sandy strands, Moonstone Beach, can be enjoyed from the mile-long boardwalk that traces the bluffs high above the sea, from here to Leffingwell Landing. A stairway and steep path drop to the sand, where you may see seals and otters on the rocks and in the pools of the California Sea Otter Game Refuge. The adorable otters love to wrap themselves in the kelp and float together in groups, called rafts. Gray whales are often seen offshore, too, migrating south from December to early February, and back north again in March and April.
Anchoring this section of Monterey pine-forested coastal highway is the picturesque little town of Cambria, once the home of miners, loggers, farmers and whalers. Today, it’s a community of artists and craftspeople who reside in garden cottages and circa-1870 wooden houses on Main Street, where art galleries and small boutiques attract shoppers.
Another fishing pier runs out across Cayucos State Beach, a popular spot for surfing and tide pooling. Looking rather like a Western movie set, the village of Cayucos holds a few antique shops and a colorful cacophony of building-sized murals––on the hardware and grocery stores, the surf shop, the elementary school, and inside the Old Cayucos Tavern, among other locations.